Ninety seconds
   Date :18-May-2024

IT’S the morning rush hour, and as I approach a busy square, the light turns red. I am nearly at the crossing line, yet I decide to stop my two- wheeler, even as many others behind me opt to zoom by, completely ignoring the fact that the traffic opposite has already started moving head on. As I turn off my engine, I watch coolly as the vehicles crisscross right in the center, somehow each one finding a way to go ahead. It’s a highway square, and now I have to wait here for nearly ninety seconds till signal turns green, and so I settle down and look around me. A cyclist, already more than half way across, for some logic of his own, has simply decided to stop midway. He is standing with one leg put across the middle bar, and head turned back to see who all have stopped behind him! Two-wheelers and four wheelers are now gathering around me, each driver looking keenly at the countdown. A minute might pass by at a frightening speed if one is enjoying, but it stretches like mozzarella cheese on a pizza while waiting at a signal. Unclean, unkempt children rush towards the waiting crowd, either begging or selling queer objects that nobody wants. They target soft spots like middle aged ladies (that’s me!), and go back to their places on the divider when scolded, their faces showing no disappointment at all. A man on a bike is standing at far left, but he has now suddenly changed his mind. It’s obvious that he wanted to go straight before, but now he slowly starts inching towards far right, probably for a U-turn. It’s our country, and our rules, and so nobody finds it odd.
All the vehicles twist and turn to give space to this privileged young man who reaches the far right and zooms down the U-turn, with a satisfied smirk on his face. The signal from the front turns green and there comes a teenage boy driving a motorbike, without helmet, one hand engaged in texting on his cellphone and two more same-aged boys riding pillion. My mind keeps ticking off all the violations that they have done, yet frighteningly enough it’s a highly common scenario. Splash! I hear a sickening sound and look around to see an auto-wallah wiping his mouth. The road beside him is splattered with a brown liquid, and I have no doubt that the next square will be getting the same treatment from this fellow and countless others who feel that they own this road and can smear it with their spits. Strangely, when it comes to expectorating, the owners of high-end four wheelers too behave in the same abysmal way, showing a total disregard to the public property, and proving that being educated doesn’t necessarily mean well-mannered. Just 20 seconds to go, I tell myself, and wait stoically.
All the vehicles around me are already revving up, readying up for the race to leave the signal first. Clap, clap!! A group of Transgenders now move around the crowd, isolating meek-looking customers and bullying them into giving money. Many in the public are afraid, and give up a small amount just to get rid of them. And I feel sorry for this section of our society, whom we have refused to give a proper induction in our daily lives. I keep feeling that it’s our own fault when these people move around square to square, begging for their basic right to live. The signal turns green, and most of the vehicles around me are already on their way. As I start my vehicle, I realize that these 90 seconds have shown me so many sides of life. More than anything else, it has shown me apathy. Towards general traffic rules, towards public property, towards other human beings too. And as I am approaching another square, I brace myself, wondering what else I might encounter.